my life has changed

I had my baby when I was young. Liam and I didn't wait until we had careers, education, a house, two cars, and a nursery painted pink or blue. We wanted to be generous to life and accept whatever happened with adventurous spirits. Well, we got what we wanted!

Nine months and three weeks after our wedding, while living in my mother-in-law's attic, I gave birth to a baby boy. Our life has never been the same since!

I have no regrets about spending the best years of my youth lavishing love on a husband and baby. I wouldn't trade my life for any other. But I want to send a message to all young women, especially girls in their teens, who might be wanting to get pregnant: being a mom is a lot of work.

Sometimes I feel like all I do is go from diapers, to feeding, to playing, to napping, and back to diapers again. Even breastfeeding, which is efficient, takes a couple hours - up to half a day, for a newborn. The evening is mostly devoted to bathing, singing, cuddling, and coaxing your baby/child to sleep. A newborn takes ALL your time. I remember saying to my husband (who looked rather startled), "All I want is TEN MINUTES to shave my legs. That's all. Just TEN MINUTES."

This constant attention and preoccupation with babies' needs doesn't end when they turn one, either. You are their mother for life. You are never really off-duty until they leave home, which may be twenty years from now.

As much as I love being a mom, I sometimes get little twinges of "what might have been" jealousy. As I sat with my sister, who just got back from a 1200 mile hike through Spain, and look at pictures of abandoned castles where she slept, jagged cliff faces in the Pyrenees Mountains that she climbed, the pilgrims she met along the way (all looking very tanned and fit from traveling under the Spanish sun), I wondered, "Have I missed the boat?"

Being a mother, I just don't have the same kind of freedom. I can't travel whenever and wherever I want, as I used to dream. I might have the opportunity again someday, but right now my baby needs me.

It's the same story with university. All our friends and family seem to be applying for school. They are so excited about choosing their courses, moving to new cities, seeing the country. Their careers and courses are spread out in front of them like a great big buffet table. All their options are open. As a mom, I won't be going to school again for many years.

My social life has changed a lot, too. I get the "twinge" when I see my single friends dressing up and putting on perfume for an evening out. My husband and I used to go out all the time, and we still try, but you can't be absolutely spontaneous when you are taking care of a baby.

I try not to let these things frustrate me. After all, it is good and natural for babies and mothers to be together. Comforting, cuddling, playing, feeding, singing, reading, bathing, and talking to your baby creates a strong emotional bond that is the groundwork for healthy emotions for the rest of their life.

Babies need fathers, too. Studies show that the need for both a father and mother is second only to survival. Children who are raised with both a mother and father (or some male that provides for and disciplines his children), are more likely to succeed in life. It is worthwhile to wait for the right man. Just because your boyfriend loves you and is willing to have a baby, doesn't mean that he is ready to be a committed dad. Can he provide for you? Can he be a full-time dad, or is he just a "weekend" dad?

It's hard to resist, I know. Babies are so cute and small. They have such adorable little clothes and accessories. But if you are not able to provide a full-time mother and father, you are not ready to meet their real needs. The baby does not need cute little clothes, bottles, toys, and buggies. The baby needs you. Putting your desire for a baby ahead of the baby's well-being is selfish.

The single mom who fills the role of both father and mother, and who manages to work, go to school, and raise a child at the same time, is not selfish. She is a hero. She is more generous than the rest of us, because she gave the gift of life, and continues to give it, at great cost to herself. But she is the first to admit that her situation is not ideal.

My other concern for girls who are craving babies is that they lose their "girlhood." Your youth is such a precious time. You are at the height of your beauty, physical energy, and even ability to learn. It is the time to lay the foundation for your future, to make life-long friends, to study, to see the world, to choose your vocation. Now, in your teens and twenties, is the time to decide which "door" to open.

The door to having a baby opens long before you get pregnant. It opens in the first stages of your relationships with boys, when you choose to have sex. Sex is a way of committing yourself. Sex speaks a special language, a social and bodily language, which says, "Take all of me, body and soul!" This is exciting and wonderful. But it leaves you open to the possibility of getting pregnant.

You don't have to open this door. If you avoid the sexually active lifestyle, you will find incredible freedom. It takes some courage to preserve freedom. Guys will promise you the world. (Some really believe they can give you the world, but more often, the guy believes he can have sex without commitment.) Don't fall for it. Being a "Stand Up Girl" also means standing up for yourself, standing up for your own freedom! The freedom to live your life in the glory of your youth, without the responsibilities that go with sex, the responsibilities of motherhood. There is plenty of time for that in the future.

Believe me, many adults look back longingly on the days when they could jump in a car with friends and go for a road trip. Or spend a week with grandma just reading and sleeping-in every day. Or backpack through Europe. Or go to school. Or go out in the evenings.

I don't want to put down motherhood, or sex. But I want you to live "golden years" of your life to their fullest potential. This way you can store up memories and experiences for the years ahead. Maybe it will even help you be a better mom, when you meet the right man and are ready for a baby.

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